Thursday, March 6, 2014

Six Steps to Thriftier Crafting

Six Steps to Thriftier Crafting
I have never really considered myself a crafty person until fairly recently. Even though I've done many different craft projects and DIY experiments over the years, it was not something I considered a true hobby. I didn't do it on a regular basis, I didn't designate a space for it, and I certainly didn't tell people about my many attempts to create things.

With a baby on the way, my nesting instincts have kicked in, and I've been trying to clean and organize every nook and cranny in the house. And I've discovered that while I may not have considered myself crafty--oh my goodness, have I ever accumulated a wide variety of craft supplies over the past 15 years! They've been shoved and stored in various places and traveled through several house moves. I'm tackling the pile to organize it today (it might be a several day job!), but I'm discovering that while I have a lot of stuff (or at least what I consider to be a lot), I haven't actually spent a lot of money on it over the years. There are lots of ways to be a thrifty crafter. Here are six ways I've managed to save money on crafting:
  1. Use what you have before you buy. (Organize and label!)
    When identifying your next project, it's tempting to rush out and buy all the supplies on the list. But check your inventory of supplies first to see if you have what you need or something close that will work as a substitute. Here's where organizing your craft supplies is key--you can't use what you have if you don't know what you have! (While organizing my crafts today, I found no less than EIGHT unused or half-used rolls of scotch tape.  Whoops.)

    Keep your craft supplies organized in a way that makes sense to you; it will be different for everyone based on what you have and what you like to do.  I'm not a scrapbooker, but I imagine people who like to scrapbook need to keep papers, stickers, stamps, scissors, and so forth, all organized by type, color, season, etc. For me, I am organizing my supplies into the following categories: glue, tape, mod podge, scissors, and other general tools; paper items; sewing supplies and fabrics; party supplies; flower arranging tools and supplies; ribbon; drawing and painting supplies; furniture refinishing supplies (which will go with tools instead of crafting). Your system will look different than mine. The point is to just organize it, label it, and put it where you'll remember it. Then check your stash before going to the store. (And don't be afraid to purge. If your bottles of craft paint are dried up, or some fabric has been sitting on the shelf for ten years, you aren't going to use it. Donate what you can, recycle what you can, and throw away the rest.)

  2. Save items that are easy to reuse, up-cycle, and re-purpose.
    Again, this will be different for everyone depending on what types of crafts you like to do. If you are into fabrics, save old T-shirts and sweaters for your crafts. (I've even saved the fabric from the little handkerchief the dog groomer puts on our dog after her grooming!) If you scrapbook, save neat greeting cards you receive in the mail to cut out pictures or letters. Save old socks for painting and wood staining. Save old plastic containers to hold mod podge or paint. If it's time to retire an old craft because it's out of style, broken, or dirty, see if there are any pieces you can save and reuse. I tossed an old Christmas decoration that was over 25 years old but saved the pine cones from it to use on a future craft.

  3. Utilize coupons, watch for sales, and go to second-hand shops. 
    Craft stores always have sales on different items, and many have coupons on their websites, so check for sales on the items you need and print off the coupon before you go. Or, if you have a smartphone, you can access the coupons directly from there. I've used coupons at both Hobby Lobby and Jo-Ann Fabrics directly from my smartphone.  Apps such as RetailMeNot also show local deals and coupons at craft stores.  Look for deals at the stores in your area. There's really never a need to pay full price if you plan ahead.

    You can usually find even better savings at a second-hand or consignment shop, but it might be harder to find what you need.  But you never know until you look!  I made Christmas ornaments to give as gifts last year, and I almost bought the clear plastic ornaments at the craft store. Then I found two huge bags of used, plain-colored plastic ornaments at Goodwill for $1 for each bag. They worked perfectly and were much cheaper!

  4. Only buy what you need.
    I'll repeat this one--only buy what you need!  Have a list and a plan before you enter the store, and stick to your list. Sure, there are lots of great deals on a wide variety of supplies, but do you need them? Will you use them? As a child, I used to go to garage sales with my Grandma, and I was always fascinated by her ability to negotiate and haggle a price. She would be so thrilled with her cheap purchases, but often the things she bought--while super inexpensive--just sat unused in a box in her basement. It's only saving money if it's something you actually need!  So who cares if silk petunias are only 99 cents!  Do you have a plan to make something out of silk petunias?  No?  Then don't buy them.

  5. Borrow from other crafters.
    Some crafting items can be very expensive, whether it be cricuts or sergers or what have you. If you use them a lot, it justifies the expense. But if you use it only occasionally, it is not very cost effective. Find other crafting friends who will let you borrow their devices rather than rushing out to buy your own. (I hear scrapbookers get together to be able to scrap and share tools--smart idea!) If you find yourself needing a certain item a lot, then consider buying your own. But if it's once in a blue moon, it's better to borrow.

    I've also managed to inherit crafting supplies from people who didn't want them anymore, and it's a free way to build my supply. But it's also important to say no and not take everything offered to you, or you'll end up with a mountain of stuff that you can't really use.

  6. Budget for your crafting hobby.
    Really, this should be number one. I don't really struggle controlling my spending habits, because I'm a cheapskate by nature. I put things in my cart only to put them back on the shelf and walk out of the store empty-handed. I have to give myself permission to actually buy things. Part of the fun of crafting for me is to see how cheaply I can do a certain project.

    But I know this isn't the case for a lot of crafters. They walk into a craft store and feel like a kid in a candy shop.  So many cool things to BUY!!  If you struggle with spending too much on crafts, set yourself a monthly budget, and don't go over that amount. Challenge yourself to find cheap and free ways to make the crafts you want to make without spending a lot of money (read: Pinterest and Google are your friends!). If you really struggle, find a friend to go shopping with you to help you stick to your list and reign you in if you start to go overboard. Remember, you aren't saving money if it's something you can't use. And since crafting is generally just a hobby for most people (not a source of income), it's one area where saving money makes a lot of sense. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. Creativity is free, so use what you have!
What ways have you saved money as a crafter? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

~Mulligan Mama

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